Under-$200 radar detectors never work as well as better models, reviewers say. Under-$150 detectors get the worst ratings. "Save your money," professional reviewer Roy Reyer says bluntly. "During my 10-year career in the speed countermeasure industry, I have NEVER found a radar detector costing less than $150 that I would keep on my own dash!"
But Reyer does recommend the Beltronics Vector 955 (*Est. $150) -- a model that cost closer to $200 when it hit the market several years ago -- as a best buy. So do reviewers at LaserVeil.com and RadarTest.com, where the Vector 955 beats the budget-priced Whistler Pro 78SE (*Est. $165) , and a now-discontinued Cobra radar detector in a head-to-head test on curves, hills and straightaways.
The Vector 955 "of late has dominated this segment in performance," says Craig Peterson of RadarTest.com. Owners say the Vector 955 still gives a lot of false alarms and not much advance warning of a real radar threat -- but that's a common complaint with all budget radar detectors. Owners at Amazon.com report the same problems with the slightly cheaper Beltronics Vector 940 (*Est. $140) , but it's a favorite among them anyway, thanks to its low price.
Whistler's budget models all bear the suffix "SE," indicating added sensitivity to the most popular Ka-band radar. In the latest tests at Speed Management Laboratories, the Whistler Pro 78SE doesn't flunk any tests, but it doesn't perform quite as well as expensive detectors, either -- for example, it can detect the most widely used K- and Ka-band radar from nine miles away, but the signal's much weaker than with pricier detectors.
Besides radar detectors and laser jammers, there are other devices on the market aimed at avoiding speeding tickets. However, experts do not recommend any of the following products.
Passive radar jammers receive incoming radar signals, scramble them and send them back to the radar gun without amplification, blanking out police radar for about 12 to 15 seconds. That's the theory, anyhow. In practice, however, experts unanimously agree that passive radar jammers simply don't work.
An active radar jammer continually scans for police radar; once it detects a signal, it returns a low-power, variable signal that effectively "blanks" the police radar. A good active radar jammer will jam the signal either totally or until you get very close to the source of the signal. That's the good news. The bad news is that jamming or attempting to jam a police radar gun is a federal felony punishable by fines of $10,000 or more and/or one year in jail.
Anti-photo license-plate covers or anti-photo sprays are intended to work against photo radar, which takes a picture of your license plate as you drive by. Plastic license plate covers are illegal in most states and Canadian provinces, as well as in other countries, because they obstruct the view of your license plate from any angle. These covers are highly visible and can earn you an expensive ticket for obstruction of license plate numbers. Photo spray reflects back the strong photo radar flash to overexpose the license plate in the picture. It's illegal or restricted in many states.